Venus and Adonis is a long lyric poem written by William Shakespeare but based on ancient mythology. In it, the Roman goddess of love, Venus, attempts to seduce the beautiful Adonis, a young mortal who is in the end more interested in hunting with his friends than romancing her. Venus tries her very hardest to woo Adonis, deceiving him into kissing her by pretending to faint. They continue to kiss until night falls and Adonis, eager to wake up
early the next morning and hunt wild boars, attempts to depart. Venus tries to restrain him, but he expresses his disgust with her amorous advances and struggles away. The next morning, Venus awakes, hearing nothing of Adonis or his hunting party. She then discovers that the hunted boar was so taken by Adonis’ good looks that it, in an attempt to kiss Adonis, accidentally gored and killed him. Devastated by his death, Venus returns to the heavens.
In this piece, since Shakespeare’s text is a poem and not a play, there is a great amount of colorful, evocative narrative. In order to keep these sections without reworking the text to suit a stage production with only dialogue,
I set it as a concert work with a Greek chorus. This chorus sings the stage direction and narrative that the audience would normally see acted out on stage in an opera or other theater work.
This piece is dedicated to the memory of Gretchen Snedeker, who came up with the idea to set Shakespeare’s poem, and who edited down the original text.
- Zachary Wadsworth